Westpac today revealed it had hired 304 additional technology staff over the past year — mostly in the second half of the year to 31 March — to support technology projects across its operations, as chief executive Gail Kelly praised its progress on technology improvement.
The bank did not stipulate what those technology projects might be, although it is known to be bedding down the integration of its systems with those of recent acquisition St George, including the shift to using CSC’s Hogan core banking software (also used by St George) as its deposits platform.
The bank’s software-related costs rose to $134 million for the six months to 31 March, compared with $86 million for the same period 12 months before, although its technology costs stayed stable at $32 million compared to $30 million. The value of the technology services it had purchased over the period shank to $124 million from $139 million.
The bank’s chief executive Gail Kelly praised its progress on technology initiatives being steered by chief information officer Bob McKinnon. “I recognised two years ago that our technology platform was unreliable, fragmented and underinvested,” she told press and the analyst community today. “It was a key concern.”
Since that time, the CEO claimed, the bank had made “tremendous progress” in materially improving the stability of its technology environment for both customers and staff. “We’ve also begun the process of improving our infrastructure in the long term, in line with our technology strategy and roadmap,” she added, noting that investment in technology would be ongoing.
Despite the claimed progress, there are still a number of questions overshadowing Westpac’s technology strategy in the years to come.
For example, although Westpac has chosen to migrate onto a variety of technology platforms being used by St George — such as in the areas of customer relationship management, human resources and its teller system, the bank has not yet outlined to what degree its systems will be integrated with those of St George in the long term.
In addition, as late as March 30 the bank was still locked with discussions with IBM on whether it would renew its to-year, US$2.3 billion IT outsourcing arrangement with the technology behemoth or whether it would split up the deal as Kelly has appeared to hint.
A Westpac spokesperson today did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what Kelly’s statements might mean in terms of detailed technology outcomes over the past six months for the bank.
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